Emma Duffield is a freshman volleyball player on the Lovett varsity team. Having briefly watched her play, she is an incredible player and a good teammate. Her team is ranked 89 in the state of Georgia.
However, her love and talent for volleyball didn’t start at a super young age.
When Emma was younger, she was playing softball, but as she got older, she “started to not really like it as much.” Her mom had played volleyball in high school, and she eventually convinced Emma to go to a Lovett volleyball summer camp the summer before 7th grade.
She ended up really enjoying the camp, so she went to the 7th grade team’s tryouts and made the team. For a short time, she also played basketball, but the schedules soon began to conflict. “It’s hard to keep up with school and the different commitments each team would require.”
Emma really found her love for volleyball in her 8th grade club season of volleyball. She appreciated “being able to do something I love with the people that I am close with.”
Even at the beginning, she thoroughly enjoyed playing volleyball, “even though I was really bad,” she laughed. “Sometimes I got frustrated because I felt like I kept messing up over and over.”
“Volleyball used to be a hobby I did for fun, and I still do have fun, but it's constantly about getting better and learning new things.”
Emma has had to learn some important fundamentals and techniques early on to be good at the sport. She told me that one important thing that she learned was to “not swing your arms while passing.”
Emma had kept fit throughout quarantine, so once she went back to RIO, where she plays club volleyball, she didn’t realize how much of an impact that had made. “I was a lot stronger on hitting than I had initially expected to be for not playing volleyball for a while.”
She said “mentality” is an important quality for a talented player. “When you’re playing and you get in your head, you start playing in your head,” she said. “And it’s really hard to dig yourself out of that hole.”
Volleyball may look easy, she said, but if some of the spectators tried it, they would realize that it is so much harder than it looks. “A lot of people say it’s like playing the keep the balloon in the air game but it’s so much harder than that.”
She enjoys watching volleyball, and though there is no one player that she follows, she likes watching to learn different techniques and plays.
Outside of Lovett, Emma plays club volleyball which is “really, really different” from Lovett volleyball. She said it helps build close relationships to the other people on her team. “I met people I have nothing in common with except for volleyball...the difference is a lot of us at Lovett wouldn’t be close if it weren’t for volleyball.” At club volleyball, Emma said she “met some of (her) best friends.”
She loves having that bond with the other people on her team. She described it as a “built-in friend group.”
When I interviewed her, she told me that she had a meeting scheduled the following Sunday with someone who will help set up an online presence with her stats and video highlights, so college recruits will begin to have her in the back of their minds. She said that she doesn’t know too much about college volleyball yet, but she does “know that you need to start making your profile as soon as possible to get your name out there.”
Emma’s jersey number is 9 and her position is outside hitter (OH). She got six kills when her team played Lake Oconee Academy, and she got three digs against Greater Atlanta Christian.
I asked her if she enjoyed playing the beachier version of her sport, and she said that while she likes it, it’s hard to adjust because some of the rules are different.
Emma wants to continue playing volleyball “for as many years as possible.” She would also encourage her kids to try out the sport that she loves so much, but if they don't like it, she’d just encourage them to try out some other sports.
As for proof of her open-mindedness? Recently, she’s gotten into watching football. And in the spring, she’ll be joining the track team, where there won’t be as many balls to dive for, but she will still be able to put her speed and agility to the test.